February 19th, 2008

So often in our profession we are asked to “teach me [technical topic] really quick”. “CSS? What’s that? I have five minutes, can you teach me that?” The temptation to pacify the ‘student’ with a quick, but inadequate, lesson is overwhelmed by a sense of caring for one’s own profession; you want to teach it the “right way”. It’s simply not possible to teach anything in a hurry if you care about the subject. You want to make sure that the subject matter is presented in the best way and that the student completely understands all of what is happening. This usually requires quite a bit of catching-up/background information before you can even get to “CSS” (first there was text, then markup languages, an so on). While giving a lesson on CSS you, perhaps subconsciously, teach your own way of doing things.

Comment blocks should look like this. Always make sure you put this in your ssh config. For the love of God you have to put your KDCs in /etc/hosts in case DNS goes down!

Because you care you will be better at teaching something, but only if taught the right way, for the right reasons, the right circumstances.

Perhaps it can be said that you have no business teaching something that you do not care about, I mean really care about.

Similarly, one cannot really learn about a topic without a desire that is not motivated by grades, resume fodder, etc.. Academic utopia. You really have to want to learn. Using CSS as an example, you can’t simply absorb the structure, syntax, etc. and expect to be at all competent at writing CSS once you ‘know’ everything about it. I can know and master all of the painting/brush techniques of oil paint and still not be able to make a good painting–a piece of art. While there is no technical difference between me with a paintbrush and Rembrandt with a paintbrush ((yes, he’s dead) we both have working arms, eyes, fingers, etc.), there is most certainly a qualitative difference between our respective outputs. I don’t think you don’t have to be a Rembrandt at CSS to write good code or teach good CSS. To admit that there is such thing as “good” CSS is admitting that if you care about CSS; some CSS will be better than other CSS even if they both produce the same web page.

There is an unnecessary stigma surrounding technology, specifically computers. I’m finding it’s not all pointers and memory registers and binary math. Good IT work is about caring.

Can a (hypothetically) emotionless sysadmin develop, implement, and maintain a fantastic IT infrastructure? I don’t doubt it. Er…on second though, without a sense of Quality there would be no graphical email clients. RFC822 says nothing about mime encoding, attachments, RTF, anything–just plain text. The same information is being transmitted with memory hummingbird pine as is with memory whale Outlook. MS bashing arguments aside, the difference is Quality.

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